Wild garlic (or ramsons) can be found growing prolifically throughout the British countryside between the months of March and June. The plant is usually found in damp areas of woodland or riverbanks, but can easily thrive in urban areas, too – you may well see some growing in your garden. You’ll be able to identify the flowers by their strong, distinctive garlicky smell.
Used in cooking for hundreds of years for its fragrant flavour and antibacterial properties (soldiers in the First World War used the plant as an antiseptic), wild garlic is the perfect representation of spring. The second warmer weather begins to make an appearance, the shoots burst through the topsoil and begin to spread like wildfire across the UK. Many gardeners consider the plant a weed; even pulling them up and throwing them onto the compost heap won’t stop them sweeping through flowerbeds the following year.
Wild garlic is part of the allium family, along with onions, leeks and (unsurprisingly) garlic. It’s a not too distant relative of the chive and can be eaten in the same way, as the stem, leaf and star-shaped white flowers are all edible. The abundance of wild garlic in the countryside is taken full advantage of by chefs, who use it to flavour all manner of dishes throughout the short season; some even preserve and ferment the leaves for use later on in the year. The makers of Cornish Yarg, a famous cheese usually covered in nettle leaves, utilise the season by creating a special wild garlic leaf-wrapped edition, which leaves the cheese with a subtle garlic flavour.